Wendigo myth in the Northwest
April 29, 2008 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Is the Wendigo purely a Northeast American (and Canadian) myth? If so is there a Northwest equivalent?
posted by Artw to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's widespread, including at least the great central plains of both the northern US and especially Canada:
wendigo (wikipedia page lists other shape-shifter myths of north america, at the bottom of the page)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:03 PM on April 29, 2008

Since the Wendigo is a myth from the Algonquin-speaking peoples/tribes, then yes it's primarily sourced within the confines of the northeastern U.S. and Canada. I don't know what a more westerly equivalent would be, specifically, although almost all tribes have cannibalistic myths that are similar to the Wendigo stories.
posted by amyms at 11:06 PM on April 29, 2008

And the NW equivalent would probably be something like Bigfoot or Sasquatch, no?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:06 PM on April 29, 2008

Bigfoot popped into my mind too, LobsterMitten, but the Wendigo stories are about malevolent spirits that possessed humans (particularly humans who have engaged in cannibalism), and I don't think the Bigfoot stories have that angle.
posted by amyms at 11:10 PM on April 29, 2008

Some Pacific Northwest tribes had a ceremony called Hamatsa, which included cannibalism-related myth.

When they visited the house they found its owner gone, but one of the house posts was a living woman with her legs rooted into the floor, and she warned them about the frightful owner of the house, who was named Baxbaxwalanuksiwe, a man-eating giant with four terrible man-eating birds for his companions. In short the men are able to destroy the man-eating giant and gain mystical power and supernatural treasures from him.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:17 PM on April 29, 2008

How about a cannibalistic skookum, from the Oregon Chinook?

And are you looking for the cannibalism specifically? Because as LobsterMitten says, practically everybody's got a Sasquatch. Some of them eat people, some are transformed former people...
posted by ormondsacker at 11:26 PM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: It's the possesion bit in particular that interests me, though cannibalism is good too. In fact all of this is great stuff.
posted by Artw at 11:51 PM on April 29, 2008

It's kind of periferal to the question but the Wendigo is also included in the Lovecrafian Mythos as Ithaqua ... though I think it's origins are NorthWestern / Alaskan
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:43 AM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sounds like the nahuales of central Mexico to me, except they usually just steall money, animals and suck a little blood rather than full on eating people, but that's been known to happen too.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:04 AM on April 30, 2008

The is the Kushtaka that comes from Tlingit mythology (Southeast Alaska). It's a shapeshifting creature that, in many stories, takes the form friends or relatives in order to lure people to their death.
posted by otolith at 6:07 AM on April 30, 2008

Steal, they steal money and animals. Wow, I need more coffee.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:07 AM on April 30, 2008

I wrote a whole paper on Wendigo and similar myths as an anthro undergrad. If I recall correctly, the very specifics of the Wendigo myth (evil spirit, possess those who ate human flesh) is pretty localized to the US northeast.

But there are lots and lots of cannibal myths around the world, and many of them involve the eater taking on some of the characteristics of the eaten person. That's one of the ostensible reasons for cannibalism, i.e. eating an enemy to gain his powers. I'm not sure it's exactly the "possession" that you were looking for, though.
posted by gemmy at 11:49 AM on April 30, 2008

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